Borussia Dortmund’s American star Christian Pulisic thinks his homeland can bounce back from the disappointment of missing the 2018 FIFA World Cup if they create a "real soccer nation" based on the Bundesliga's successful model.
Pulisic’s own rise in the sport has been meteoric, and at the tender age of 19 he is already widely regarded as the USMNT’s best player. The attacking all-rounder’s seven goals and four assists were not enough to help the USA qualify for Russia next summer, though, and the youngster has a simple recipe for success: copy his adopted homeland.
“I would say the youth systems in Germany are the things that have impressed me the most,” Pulisic told Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein, author of Das Reboot, in an interview with ESPN. “How they grow their youth players into full professionals… you’re fighting really for a pro contract [and] it’s something we can definitely learn from.”
Watch: Pulisic's sublime strike against Hoffenheim was voted December Goal of the Month!
Having had a direct hand in 18 goals from just 15 games for Dortmund’s Under-17 side, Pulisic was promoted to the first-team squad in January 2016. He made his Bundesliga debut later that month in a 2-0 win over Ingolstadt to become the youngest foreign-born player to feature in the German top-flight at 17 years, four months and 13 days of age.
Fellow BVB academy products Nuri Sahin, Mario Götze and Marcel Schmelzer had already made a similar journey and regularly line up alongside Pulisic for Die Schwarzgelben, and Pulisic says the opportunity afforded to home-grown players in a major European league is something unique.
“It’s a system that obviously I’d never really experienced in the US and I would have never got something like this,” he continued. “I think that’s the biggest reason why I’ve grown so much as a player. I learned from going from Under-17 to Under-19 and fighting every day with other players and how we battled.”
Pulisic is not the only youngster from across the pond to try his luck in Germany: Revierderby rival but off-field best friend Weston McKennie has been making waves for Schalke after swapping Dallas for Gelsenkirchen in 2016, and Josh Sargent – top scorer at last year’s U20 World Cup in South Korea – is set to be promoted to Werder Bremen’s first-team squad after impressing in pre-season. For Pulisic, the Bundesliga is providing the basis for the USA’s soccer-playing future and fuelling his own progress.
Watch: Pulisic and McKennie, rivals on the field and good friends off it
“It’s not about completely restarting. It’s really about developing what we already have into [something] even better and I think if we continue to do that then of course players will come up and there will be new talents and new things going on,” he explained.
“I’ve come into a bigger role with the national team in the US; but I think the environment here definitely helps. Just being a good team player with this team, just being a piece of the puzzle is really important for me.”